Spoiler alert - this article doesn’t have anything to do with cats. But it is about something you hear all the time from employment attorneys. You have to be consistent when it comes to enforcing your attendance policies and plant rules. You have to treat all employees the same. If you don’t, there is a huge risk you won’t be successful in defending your disciplinary decisions in labor arbitrations and employment litigation. As a general rule, this is excellent advice.
Does this mean, though, that you absolutely have to be consistent 100% of the time? If you make an exception to your attendance policy by giving a particular employee one last chance (other than for reasons relating to the ADA or the FMLA), will that be the end of your ability to enforce the policy?
Will excusing a violation of a plant rule in one instance mean you can never enforce it? Will your company be a victim of the “no good deed goes unpunished” rule?
The answer is that if you make exceptions sparingly, and wisely, you will probably be okay. Here are some tips that will put you in a better position to defend the (very) occasional exception:
None of this is meant to minimize the problems that can be caused by inconsistent treatment. Even the EEOC, however, recognizes that there are circumstances where disparate treatment is justifiable. Enforce your rules and policies consistently, but don’t be afraid to make an exception where circumstances, and fairness, demand it.